Afghanistan receives first US helicopters as more US troops on way to country

KABUL (TCA) — The Afghan Air Force (AAF) has received its first U.S.-made UH-60 Black Hawk helicopters as part of a planned replacement of its aging fleet of Russian-made helicopters, RFE/RL reported.

“The first Afghan Air Force UH-60s arrived today at Kandahar Air Field” in southern Afghanistan, the NATO-led Resolute Support mission said in a statement posted on Facebook late on September 18. “The AAF is transitioning from the Mi-17 to the UH-60 as part of recapitalization efforts to modernize the helicopter fleet,” it added.

Reports say the United States plans to supply as many as 159 refurbished Black Hawks to Afghanistan in the coming years to replace Afghanistan’s Soviet-era Mi-17s, whose age makes them increasingly difficult to maintain.

Bolstering the Afghan Air Force is a central part of President Ashraf Ghani’s four-year road map to improve the country’s security forces.

A U.S. report found earlier this year that the Taliban controls or contests control of about 40 percent of the country, and security forces are also fighting against militants affiliated with the extremist group Islamic State (IS).

In the meantime, U.S. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis on September 19 said that most of the 3,000 additional troops the United States is deploying to Afghanistan are on their way.

Mattis told Pentagon reporters that he didn’t want to give precise numbers but said he was sending “over 3,000” troops to Afghanistan, where they will bolster the approximately 11,000 American forces already there.

U.S. President Donald Trump last month announced a new Afghanistan strategy he said was aimed at defeating the Taliban after nearly 16 years of war.

The United States is also pressing for NATO partners to increase their own troop levels in Afghanistan.

Sergey Kwan

TCA

Sergey Kwan has worked for The Times of Central Asia as a journalist, translator and editor since its foundation in March 1999. Prior to this, from 1996-1997, he worked as a translator at The Kyrgyzstan Chronicle, and from 1997-1999, as a translator at The Central Asian Post.
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Kwan studied at the Bishkek Polytechnic Institute from 1990-1994, before completing his training in print journalism in Denmark.

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